« AnteriorContinuar »
for it is written, If any one be in Christ, he is a new creature , old things are past away, behold all things are become new ! Which leads me,
THIRDLY; To shew that there is in believers, not a perfection of fincerity, and of parts only ; but also of measure, or degrees.
But this doth not consist in his receiving any thing new, or having any thing added, in nature or quality, to what he hath already received from CHRIST by the Spirit ; but it is a continual receiving more and more by faith of that divine nature, fpirit, life, and power, whereby it was first quickened, and made a new creature in CHRIST. It is plain then that every true Christian, from the time of his effectual calling into the knowledge and fellowship of JESUS CHRIST, hath the true knowledge, and fear, and love of God formed in him, and imparted to him ; altho’ for a season God make it not to grow, at least not in such a manner as to satisfy the desires and longings of the renewed mind : Yet the believer is united to CHRIST,' as a branch in the vine, and hath also God for his Father, and the Holy Spirit dwelleth in him: And what can he have more, but a further increase, according to his new state and principles, 'in the knowledge and enjoyment of God, thro' CHRIST, by the Spirit.-And thus a Christian, as a Christian, or the new and inner
man, man, which is spiritually joined, and inseparably united to the Lord Jesus, grows up to manhood, increasing with the increase of God: And as the new man grows in stature, wisdom, and strength, it puts off the old man, subduing and mortifying the deeds of the body, whereby it becomes more and more conformed to CHRIST, its living Head, whose life is practically manifested in our mortal bodies, until we know what it is to walk even as Christ also walked ; and the full growth of the new man is its perfection.
But there is not in every one an equal measure when they arrive to their fulness, either as to size or fruitfulness : For as in nature some persons are taller and stronger, and consequently are more capable of being profitable than others; so it is in the Kingdom of Grace. The branches in the vine also are not of equal bigness, nor alike fruitful; yet in as much as they grow in the vine, and bear fruit, the prudent husbandman will not cut them off, and cast them away because others are more fruitful than they. CHRIST also hath weak members in his mystical body and lambs in his Hock, which he continues to support, and care for as really as he doth for his sheep ; yea he seems as if he had a more tender care for them than those that
are stronger, because their feebleness requires it; · for it is written, be mall gather the lambs with his
arm, and carry them in his bofom : And as Jacob his servant led his flock, fo CHRIST gently leads
· Mm 3
them that are with young. Now every one's pertection is his full growth, whereby, thro' the Spirit, he brings forth fruit unto God, in the place and station which he hath assigned him, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Some therefore can never arrive to that ftature, nor be so abundantly fruitful as others: Hence Christ, compa: ring his Churches to good ground wherein the feed of God's word is fown, and received by them; faith that some brought forth an hundred fold, and some but thirty; and yet both brought forth fruit unto perfeétion.
Now as the new man grows more and more towards perfection ; every member, part, and faculty must be proportionably increased, until they arrive to their full growth. Therefore his understanding in the knowledge of Christ must increase, and his love to God and his commandments wax stronger and stronger continually; until the believer is perfect in the growth of every part, thoroughly furnished unto all good works : Accordingly we read in Scripture of perfect faith*, perfeet hope t, perfect love I, perfeEt understanding ll, perfect patience S, and perfeeling holiness in the fear of God. The per
fection of faith in Abraham is particularly men- tioned, who therefore is set forth as an example
for us to follow; Seest thou, faith the Apostle, how faith wrought with his works ? and by works' was
: * Jam, ii, 22. . # i Cor. xiv, 20.
+ 1. Pet. i. 13. :
I'll John iv, 18. faith made perfekt. He heartily and chearfully did that great work which God commanded him, and was blessed in his deed; hence by works his faith was made perfect : Or it may be understood that his faith was manifested to be to; for in obedience to a divine command, without disputing or doubt. ing of God's power or faithfulneis, he readily offered Isaac his son upon the altar. Doubtless 'his faith must be perfect, that enabled him to obey this most trying command, perhaps the most difficult that God ever called any of his people to do: For what could exceed the sacrificing of his only son, and that with his own hand? Had he been put to the choice whether he would have laid down his own life (than which there can be no greater evidence of faith and love towards God) or sacrificed his beloved, his only fon Ifaac; it is highly probable, that without the least hesitation, he would have preferred the former to the latter : But by this amazing work of obedience, he plainly shewed that his faith in God was perfect.
In some places the Scripture seems to mean by perfection, such a growth, and establishment in grace as is sufficient to keep the believer from being seduced or misled, by false teachers and erroneous doctrines; and to make him bold and stedftast in the faith, against all the opposition of his adversaries. In this sense it is to be understood comparatively; as he that knows how to distinguish clearly betwixt found, and corrupt do&trines ; that Mm 4
which is according to godliness, and that which is
with him in whom there is not that knowledge : In this sense the Apostle seems to use it, where he faith ; - we speak wisdom among them that are perfeet; and again, be not children in understanding, but in understanding be men ; or, as it is in the Greek, and is fo rendered in the margin, be perfel. Again ; he that is strong, so as to overcome the wicked one, is perfect, when compared with him that is weak, and foiled by the enemy : Thus Peter seems to speak of our being perfect, as a certain attaininent in strength, whereby the believer is established and settled : Saint James also tells us, that if any offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and abie also to bridle the whole body: And St. Paul appears to mean the very fame, where he faith, Let as many of us as be perfect, be thus minded; that is, still advance forward in the knowledge of Christ, increasing with the increase of GOD: For what he did not count this his utternsoft and proper perfection, which he was called of God to follow after, is evident from what he said before; not as
feat; but I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in CHRIST Jesus.John calls them that had attained thus far young men, who were strong, and had overcome the wicked one; but he speaks of others who, compared with these, were babes, or ligele children; and again he speaks of some who had gone yet